The Milwaukee Brewers have a few solid bullpen pieces for the 2014 campaign, yet it feels as though they are still an arm or two short on reliable experience. General manager Doug Melvin has said they’re looking at a couple of veteran relief pitchers, but not at a premium cost. The Matt Garza deal ate up much of the club’s usable payroll, but there’s room for a modest offer to an under-appreciated, right-handed reliever.
Pat Neshek, a 33-year-old sidewinder from Wisconsin, remains on the free agent market and is a perfect fit for the Brewers’ current pen. Neshek’s sidearm delivery freezes bats from the right side, holding right-handed hitters to a filthy .181 batting average in his career. In 2012, righties went 5-for-53 during the season for a .093 average and .380 OPS.
Neshek is essentially a right-handed version of a LOOGY, an acronym for “Lefty One-Out Guy.” Normally, teams are dead set on having one shutdown lefty in the pen to face the opponents’ big lefty stick. Thus, Neshek would only be pitching to a key right-handed batter or two in a game. This can create issues with the rest of the bullpen over the course of the season, but he would prove to be an extremely valuable option in mid-to-late game situations.
All the stats show his value despite the limited amount of times one can use him. In most cases, Neshek will enter a game in the middle of an inning, often with men on base. Batters are hitting .192 against him with runners aboard throughout his career. With runners in scoring position, the average drops to just .183. Finally, facing hitters with the bases loaded, Neshek allows a .174 average.
Think about the National League MVP, the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Andrew McCutchen, coming up with the sacks full in the seventh inning of a tight game. Neshek is the perfect hurler to jog into that situation, using his funky delivery to neutralize McCutchen. How about having a pitcher like Neshek to face Matt Holliday, Allen Craig or Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals? Three guys who routinely kill the Brewers in those “clutch” situations suddenly have their hands full.
Neshek becomes a fantastic weapon when used properly against right-handed threats. Yes, having a one-batter (or two) reliever can pose problems managing the rest of the staff, but it’s entirely doable with Milwaukee’s personnel.
For one, assuming health, the Brewers would have a pair of lefties in relief with Will Smith and Tom Gorzelanny. Both of these southpaws are effective against hitters on either side of the plate, and should be used to pitch a full inning or more. Each of them has experience as starters, so they can cover even more innings when needed to make up for Neshek’s limited role.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee should have a couple of other arms capable of pitching multiple frames. Though Brandon Kinztler is penciled in to be the eighth-inning setup man, he’s accustomed to pitching more than one inning in an outing. The Crew also would be wise to keep hard-throwing Alfredo Figaro in the majors, as he’s another arm willing and able to toss a couple of innings.
The price would be right on the veteran reliever as well; last season he made $975,000 and wouldn’t cost much more because of his limited effectiveness. The Brewers, if willing to give him two years, probably could strike a deal for less than $1 million per season.
Neshek is a specialty pitcher, yet he has tremendous value in today’s game of matchups and bullpen battles. He might get wild at times, but he also gets big outs against tough righties. For the Brewers to be in contention for a postseason berth, they’ll need a lot of little things to go right, and grind out victories one batter at a time.
Pat Neshek fits the bill perfectly.